by Allan Donnelly
January 29th, 2008
For the first half of 2007, Toney Freeman was flying high. Two wins â€“ at the Ironman Pro and the Sacramento Pro â€“ and a third-place finish at the Arnold put Freeman in the driverâ€™s seat to make a run at the top five, if not the top three, at the 07 Olympia. Unfortunately for Freeman, thatâ€™s where the wheels came off, as an illness he suffered the week before the contest all but erased his chances. When it was all said and done, Freeman dropped all the way to 13th. Now, a rejunivated Freeman has his sights set on redemption in 2008, starting with the defense of his Ironman Pro title on February 16.
FLEXONLINE: HOW BIG OF A DISAPPOINTMENT WAS THE 2007 OLYMPIA?
Getting sick at last minute was a huge disappointment and the aftermath of the Olympia was a huge disappointment. But when I look back on it, those things were necessary to get me where I am today. When people see me at the spring shows theyâ€™ll know what Iâ€™m talking about. I kind of went through a cleansing process. There was a lot of hype and what not because of how well I did in the spring, so I expected more myself than probably everybody else expected of me. I did some things different and probably 90 percent of it worked. But I fell ill the last week and wasnâ€™t able to pull it together. It Wwsnâ€™t the first time I got sick the week before a show but all the other times I was able to pull it all together.
FLEX: WHY DO YOU THINK THINGS WENT WRONG?
TF: I had set a goal for myself to be a certain size, and certain look and all that and itâ€™s unnecessary. Ronnieâ€™s gone now so I donâ€™t have to focus on all that trying be big and competing at 300 pounds. I wanted to see if I could do it, but at this level itâ€™s all about quality. IF hadnâ€™t got sick I think people would have really been shocked, because I was around 288 which is the biggest Iâ€™ve ever been and I was in really good condition. But at the last minute the bottom fell out. But I look back on it now and can actually say Iâ€™m glad that it happened. It was a horrible experience. I was embarrassed and all that other good stuff but â€¦ like I say, when people see my now theyâ€™re going to see Wow, he really pulled it together. I think sometimes we gotta fall or stumble in order to get to where weâ€™re really going in life.
FLEX: HOW HAS THAT MOTIVATED YOU FOR THE 2008 SEASON?
TF: Itâ€™s allowed me to focus on what I really needed to be focused on, which is quality. Me and Dennis Wolf are the really only big guys left that are really competitive. We both have similar structures to the shorter guys, so I feel we both have an advantage. Itâ€™s just a matter of nailing the conditioning. So thatâ€™s my goal, thatâ€™s what drives me now is nailing the conditioning. Iâ€™ll be competing in the 280s. Iâ€™m already there already. So Iâ€™m excited about my chances.
FLEX: DO YOU FEEL PEOPLE WROTE YOU OFF AFTER THE OLYMPIA, DESPITE TWO WINS AND A TOP THREE-FINISH AT THE ARNOLD TO START THE 2007 SEASON?
TF: This is one of those fickle type of sports and youâ€™re only as good as last show. I donâ€™t blame people for thinking whatever they think. People donâ€™t realize in 95 I was one of the top amateurs. I left the sport for five years, came back got my pro card climb my way back into the top seven in the world. So if you doubt me you probably just donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m made of or what my capabilities are.
FLEX: WHAT ARE YOUR CAPABILITIES? TF: When first came on they used to call me the swimmer. I tore my pec and they said heâ€™s washed up. Then I cam back and they said, Heâ€™s Too small to be a pro successfully. Shawn ray said I would never place in the top five in a show. And the next show I got fifth place and the next show I won. So all those people who d oubt I donâ€™t really worry about them because they donâ€™t really know. Thereâ€™s tons of pros out there but thereâ€™s only a few top guys. And the reason is work ethic, genetics and drive. The people who wrote me off, thatâ€™s good just have â€˜em bet against me. Iâ€™ll take all the bets. Whatever they want to do.
FLEX: LETâ€™S BREAK DOWN SOME OF YOUR FELLOW COMPETITORS WHOM YOU WILL BE FACING IN EITHER THE IRONMAN AND/OR THE ARNOLD CLASSIC.
FIRST OFF, WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE COMMENTS GUSTAVO BADELL MADE IN HIS FLEXONLINE INTERVIEW?
TF: Gustavoâ€™s a comedian to me. Iâ€™ll never forget, when I first saw Gustavo after he was getting 18th at the Olympia and then he got seven th place at the Arnold that year and I thought he should have got top six. So I kind of gave him a compliment and all that and then the next year he got 3rd at the Olympiaâ€¦ Iâ€™m not going to say that Iâ€™m not still a fan, but Iâ€™m a fan of the old Gustavo. New Gustavo is kind of like, kind of caught up in some fantasy world. I donâ€™t know, he must be looking in some of those circus mirrors or something. B ecause the comment he made about the back shot, where he said heâ€™s gonna make me look like a kid? Thereâ€™s no one in the world 5-9 thatâ€™s gonna make somebody 6-2 look like a kid. Thatâ€™s not gonna happen. Physics just wonâ€™t allow it. Iâ€™m wider than him, my waist is smaller than him, I have way more detail than him so, I just kind of laughed at that and I just c ant wait to get up there. Heâ€™s gonna see whatâ€™s up, for sure. Heâ€™s like the last person Iâ€™m worried about, for sure. He better worry about Kai Green and Melvin Anthony, he donâ€™t even need to bring me up at all.
FLEX: OK. HOW ABOUT PHIL HEATH?
TF: When Phil first came into this sport I took a liking to him because heâ€™s a young cat, he remind me of myself when I was his age, heâ€™s got a good head on his shoulders. Iâ€™m a huge fan I tell him that every time I see him. Itâ€™s just going to be a matter of who nails it. If we both nail it, I think I have more mature muscle. Last year nobody gave me a chance, everybody picked him but itâ€™s not up to the fans, itâ€™s up to the judges and it all depends what you bring to the stage in that moment. those 15 30 minutes youâ€™re up on that stage is all that matters. It doesnâ€™t matter what you look like in the room before or after. I look forward to competing against Phi, I know he made a lot of improvements. I just know about muscle, how it is. Heâ€™s young, he put on a lot of new muscle and weâ€™ll see how much of it actually makes it to the stage.
FLEX: JOHNNIE JACKSON?
TF: Iâ€™m a huge fan of Johnnieâ€™s. If Johnnie nails it like he did in Atlantic City heâ€™s gonna be in the mix. No knocks on anything on his physique. Heâ€™s got a more powerful upper body than lower body, so if he was able to bring his legs up a little more, his calves and all that, then heâ€™s gonna be right in the mix.
FLEX: KAI GREENE?
TF: Another person Iâ€™m a huge fan of. I watched him through his amateur years and early in his pro career. He came up last year. I used to see Kai Greene with that cooler all the time. When I saw him in 07 I was like, Wow! I got to get me one of them coolers! Itâ€™s all about the food, he learned the power of food. He already had a incredible physique, so he learned how to eat and the rest is history. Kai is one person out of probably all of them that I will be more concerned with than most people because I just respect what heâ€™s done. I know heâ€™s driven and know he got that taste of success. I heard he got up to 300 pounds in the offseason, so like I said letâ€™s see how much of that he brings to the stage.
FLEX: DEXTER JACKSON?
TF: I think I was real close to Dexter last year at the Arnold. Iâ€™m just dying for another shot. I kind of wish Victor was there a little bit. People told me I was really close especially when we first walked out there but I kind of faded and they kind of gained ground. Iâ€™m a tall guy and I have to eat all day. Those guys can fill up and stay full for the whole weekend. So I think if Dexter nails it and I nail it itâ€™s just going to be like a bigger version of himself. So weâ€™ll see what the judges say. Dexter is one of my favorite bodybuilders of all time. We came through the ranks together. Heâ€™s one of the most consistent people in the sport, comes in shape every time and I admire that and I have to learn from that. Now that Victorâ€™s not in it he is the man to beat – no matter what they say about Phil – and Iâ€™m very aware of that.
FLEX: MELVIN ANTHONY?
TF:One of my favorite bodybuilders, we always kick it when we see each other. If Melvin nails it heâ€™s going to be at the top. I feel the top five [at the Arnold Classic] is going to be Dexter, Melvin, Phil myself and Kai Greene. Iâ€™m not trying to leave anybody out but Iâ€™m just going by â€¦ those are the guys that have everything, no oneâ€™s missing anything so itâ€™s just a matter of who nails it. If all five of us nail it wow, thatâ€™s going to be crazy. Thatâ€™s really what I always hope for. What you really want is for everyone to be on so you can assess yourself accordingly.
FLEX: ALRIGHT. GIVE ME A PREDICTION ON WHERE YOUâ€™RE GOING TO FINISH AT THESE FIRST FEW SHOWS.
TF: Iâ€™m doing all four of the first spring shows. Everybody says this, but this is best Iâ€™ve ever been. Ever. I donâ€™t want to put any pictures out, I donâ€™t want to jinx myself. But ever since the Olympia Iâ€™ve been working on this. People are really going to be shocked. My bodyfat, my waist are all where it usually is by show time and I still have a little less than three weeks to go before [the Ironman]. Iâ€™ve grown up a lot. A lot of people didnâ€™t experience what I did. I experienced victory and defeat. Most people have one or the other. I got the taste of sweetness and I got the taste of bitterness, so I think I have a edge over most people. I know what it feels like to have it and lose it, and I donâ€™t want it to happen again so Iâ€™m pulling out all the stops and itâ€™s going to be something to see.
Original article courtesy of www.Flexonline.com